Visualising major scales



By Michael Korte

Figuring out scales on the guitar can be quite challenging if you have no clue where to start. But it does not need to be. I will show you a pretty simple way here to figure out any scale on your own.

First, listen to this:


What you are hearing here is a C major scale. What really matters is not that it’s a C scale, but that it’s a major scale.



1st assignment

What you need to do first, is, to figure out how to play this scale on ONE string up and down the guitar neck on the A string.

I give you a hint further down and the solution at the end of this page, but do not look at it before you tried it on your own. This is important.

Now that you got this down and you have memorized the sound well and reliably – you can test yourself, by trying to sing the scale – proceed by playing the same scale starting from the same point, but now play it through different strings and play it in 1st position only. That means, whenever you can use open strings, instead of fretting a note, do so. That also means, to not exceed the 4th fret. Play this scale up and down from one C note to the next.

Take your time to explore this, you will learn a lot!

Hint to the example above: start on the 3rd fret on the A string.



2nd assignment

Now that you found that out, try to continue the scale up to the 3rd fret on the high e-string and down to the open low E-string and by doing so extending the scale over all the strings. Take a piece of tab paper and write out the notes you play there.

This will train your aural skills and helps you to connect melodies to the visual of the fretboard much better. When you are done with this, proceed to the…



3rd assignment

For this assignment you take the same scale and the same starting point, but this time you need to write three notes on every string with the starting point as your point of reference.

If you have this done, you will have a scale shape for a major scale, that you can shift ANYWHERE on the guitar and it will always be a major scale. So, all you need to do to play in different keys is, to find the root note on the A string and play this scale to this key.

About the author:

Michael Korte teaches guitar in Finland. In his guitar school, he teaches his students new approaches and concepts for their rhythm and solo playing and also shows them how to improve their practicing, so that they get better results faster. If you want to reach the next level in your playing and you are looking for kitaratunnit in Tampere make sure to get in touch with him.

Solution to the first assignment: The frets are 3 – 5 – 7 – 8 – 10 – 12 – 14 – 15

Solution to the second assignment:

Frets on the low E-string = 0 – 1 – 3, A-string = 0 – 2 – 3, D-string = 0 – 2 – 3, G-string = 0 – 2 (– 4) (the 4th fret is the same note as the open B string), B-string = 0 – 1 – 3, high e-String = 0 – 1 – 3.




Solution to the third assignment: